- What’s On
‘Istanbul’s greatness derives from…something so obvious that it is (literally) overlooked – the river that runs through it. Well, it’s not a river; it is a strait – a passageway from the warm waters of the Aegean to the chilly Black Sea. And it was carved out not by man but by nature, the result, some academics would have it, of the Biblical flood’ (writes Andrew Finkel in Cornucopia 52).
In March 1994, a dramatic accident occurred on the Bosphorus. Nassia, a 100,000-tonne tanker carrying oil from Russia, collided with a cargo ship at the northern exit of the Strait. The cargo ship exploded and ran ashore, while Nassia immediately caught fire and released over 13,000 tonnes of oil spill into the sea. The fire continued for weeks causing a devastating environmental disaster.
The accident marked a delicate moment in the history of the Bosphorus. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the Caspian oil reserves in the 1990s, the Strait became one of the six busiest oil-shipping ‘choke points’, along with the Suez Canal, the Strait of Malacca, Bab-el-Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Dover. Compared to these other routes, however, the Bosphorus Strait is unique as it is not only one of the narrowest routes, but also passes through the heart of Istanbul, a city of over 14 million people. What complicates this further is the geographic form of the Strait, with its sharp and narrow turns, making it one of the riskiest and most difficult channels to navigate in the world.
Recalling sociologist Ulrich Beck’s claim that ‘even the most…moderate objectivist account of risk…involves a hidden politics, ethics and morality’, contemporary concerns regarding the transit of colossal oil tankers through this navigational route have conflicted with the controversies around transnational energy pipelines and various other large-scale infrastructural and urban transformation projects in Istanbul.
So occupying the entrance floor of SALT Beyoğlu this summer will be a show which manifests the Bosphorus as an installation object. The exhibition will introduce the idea of the Bosphorus as a ‘geographic object’, and by rendering the Strait as a constricted experiential condition, the project positions geographic scale as an architectural problem.
Design and research: Neyran Turan. Project team: Neyran Turan, Mete Sönmez, William Trotty, Amelia Hazinski, Melis Uğurlu, Anastasia Yee, Louise Weiss and Sam Biroscak.
Contributions by Andrew Finkel, Harriet Rix, Tim Cornwell et al. Photographs by Monica Fritz, Brian McKee, Fritz von der Schulenburg